Saturday, November 6, 2010

“Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, creates three major triangulations between characters”. Discuss.

Relationships are developed throughout the play and it is the breakdown in the relationships with Hedda that lead to the dramatic closure of the play. Hedda initiates one of the triangulations in an attempt to “have power over a human being’s fate”.
Judge Brack creates the second an unsuccessful parallel to Hedda’s own power advancing creation. Jorgen Tesman and Thea Elvsted form the last triangulation in an attempt to rebirth Eilert’s manuscript.
The first triangular relationship is between Hedda Gabler, Eilert Loevborg and Thea Elvsted. Hedda created this relationship, controlling it by relying heavily on her influence over Eilert. Hedda’s power over Eilert are hinted at when Hedda says “So I, poor thing have no power over you at all?” and Eilert replies “Not where that’s concerned.” Suggesting that Hedda does have power over him in other areas. Tension arises when Hedda becomes jealous of his newfound success with out her, she also wishes she was his inspiration.
The relationship between Hedda and Thea is hostile on Hedda’s part because Hedda is jealous of Thea, wishing to be the Red headed, pistol wielding “woman standing between Eilert Loevborg and me (Thea).” Hedda is jealous of Thea’s beauty, threatening to “... burn it off (Thea’s hair)”, and her influence over Eilert and his work. The only way Hedda can control Thea is by controlling Eilert and due to Thea’s loyalty and devotion consequently control Thea. Thea and Eilert appear to be the perfect combination but tension arises between them as a result of Hedda burning their ‘child’.
The second triangulation is created by Judge Brack. It involves Hedda, Jorgen Tesman and Judge Brack. In this triangle, Brack tries unsuccessfully to play a role parallel to Hedda’s in the previous triangle. Brack and Hedda are from the same social circle, giving Brack an advantage over Jorgen with Hedda, making him acceptable to her more readily as a result. Jorgen is indebted to Brack but no conflict occurs between these two characters for two reasons: Brack is not looking for a commitment to Hedda and Jorgen is blinded by naiveté. The relationship Brack is working towards is purely plutonic, Hedda tempts him but is unwilling to commit to this relationship. Hedda keeps the sexual tension high and doesn’t end her relationship with Brack completely because she believes that as long as she can keep him interested, and at the same time not submit to him, she can stay on top of the power struggle with Brack and manipulate him as well.
The final triangle was mutually formed between Jorgen and Thea to rebirth the ‘child’ of Eilert and Thea. This triangle includes Jorgen, Thea and Hedda. Hedda is jealous of Thea’s Influence over Jorgen and is angry because she is gradually loosing her power over Jorgen because of Thea’s influence. Hedda and Jorgen obviously had a marriage purely for convenience. Jorgen is not intimate; on his honeymoon he was “rummaging in libraries” and “copying out old parchments”. Hedda also denies any feelings for Jorgen refusing the word love saying “don’t use that sentimental word”, and telling Aunt Julle to “be Quiet” when she mentions anything referring to the baby that links Jorgen and Hedda.
Up until Act Four all of these triangles were controlled by Hedda. Hedda controls the first triangle by controlling Eilert and using alcohol on him to maintain superiority over Thea by lowering Eilert’s social standing. Hedda controls the second triangle by not allowing Brack the relationship he yearns for. The third relationship is not active until the end of Act Four. The dramatic closure of the play is not caused by the triangles themselves but the breakdown of Hedda’s power base as a result of the conflicts between Hedda and the other characters. After Hedda’s prompting “do it beautifully”
Eilert commits suicide. Immediately Hedda is unable to control the first triangle, Eilert is dead and Thea is released from the power hold Hedda had over her. Without the first triangle, Hedda turns to the second for her control, but is shocked when she discovers that Brack knows it was her gun that killed Eilert. Brack abuses his power and uses the information to try to blackmail Hedda into the relationship he has been pushing for. Hedda cannot accept the sexual relationship, nor can she refuse, Brack has won the fight for power supremacy in his triangle. Thea and Jorgen decide to recreate the manuscript together, Hedda loses power over Jorgen and the third triangle.
Hedda decides to solve her problem of no power by shooting herself in the temple. Hedda says “I want, for once in my life, to have power over a human being’s fate.” Hedda still has control over her unborn child’s life. Ironically, by killing herself, Hedda destroys the baby and her potential power over it. By killing the baby Hedda, also destroys the link between herself and Jorgen the only person who could/would have saved her. In the destruction of her baby she destroys her future; people will remember Eilert because of his ‘child’ but there is nothing left to remember Hedda by. The dramatic closure is caused by the destruction of Hedda’s power base in the form of triangular relationships; this destruction is caused by her own manipulation of the triangles.
Q. 3.     How far is the dramatic use of detail effective and according to the plot structure of the play? Discuss
In Act 1 of Hedda Gabler, Tesman and Hedda have just returned from their honeymoon. Tesman’s Aunt Juliana has paid them a welcome-home morning visit, and just before she leaves, gives her nephew a little package wrapped in newspaper:
Tesman:       (opens the package) what is it, Tesman, you’ve kept them! Hedda, this is really very touching. What?
Hedda:        (by the what-nots on the right) what is it, Tesman?
Tesman:       My old shoes! My slippers, Hedda!
Hedda:        Oh, them. I remember you kept talking about them on our honeymoon.
Tesman:       Yes, I missed them dreadfully. (Goes over to her). Here, Hedda, take a look.
Hedda:        (goes away towards the stove) Thanks, I won’t brother.
This tiny incident of the slippers dramatizes how intensely Hedda’s husband is still a small boy, surrounded by the smothering, adoring love of his two maiden aunts and their elderly maid, Bertha, in which he has been brought up. But perhaps ‘small boy’ is wrong. Their possessive idolatry has turned him too into a kind of old woman, obsessed by the little rituals of his own comfort. Hedda’s lack of interest in the slippers, her curt ‘I won’t bother’, reveals the quiet desperation of her realization that she has married not only Tesman but Auntie Juju and Auntie Rena and Bertha as well. She has married into a claustrophobic coziness completely hostile to her conception of herself as a free, proud and aristocratic spirit.
As Ibsen himself puts it in the draft notes for the play:
George Tesman, his old aunts, and the elderly serving-maid Bertha, together form a whole and a unity. They have a common way of thinking, common memories, and a common attitude to life. For Hedda they appear as an inimical and alien power directed against her fundamental nature.
The realistic surface details – the slippers, the chintz covers, Auntie Juju’s new hat – are convincing at the naturalistic level, then, but are only of dramatic importance in so far as Ibsen uses them, as he habitually does, to enable us to penetrate that surface to the hidden truth beneath.
It would be wrong, then, to confuse Ibsen’s use of realistic detail, so intimately connected with psychological revelation of character, with the very different, less selective realism of the documentary kind. But even more important, Ibsen’s plays are not ‘problem plays’: they are only superficially ‘about’ the topical social issues of his day. This is true even of plays like Ghosts and A Doll’s House, and certainly of a play Like Hedda Gabler. The real inner center of Ibsen’s drama is its powerful portrayal of the fundamental clash between man and society. This is what prevents Ibsen’s plays from seeming dated, and what gives some of them what many seek is a tragic intensity.

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